Last weekend, a bunch of Filipino bartenders from some of the top bars in Asia flew in to take over mixing duties at some of the hottest spots in BGC, Makati CBD, and Poblacion. Armed with spirits provided by William Grant and Sons (Monkey Shoulder, Hendricks, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, and Milagro Blanco Tequila), they showed off their skills in the third annual Manila Cocktail Fest. We tagged along on the Poblacion leg of the festival, and we learned some new things about mixing up things that will get us drunk.
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1. Fino Sherry Makes for a Great Martini
“I think sherry is an underdog,” says Edriane Lim, mixing a drink behind the bar at Lampara. “I think bartenders think it’s an old woman’s drink.” And so, each of his five drinks for that night feature a different kind of sherry. The one that really showcases the value of the fortified wine is the Scandalous Martini, which pretty much just replaces the usual vermouth with dry Fino sherry. It makes for a startlingly delicate martini, the herbal flavors of both ingredients coming in gentle waves, emerging through a clean citrus bouquet. And then it leaves bone dry. This might become our standard way of making a martini, purists be damned.
2. Steep Your Tea in Coconut Water
Over at Polilya, Gerry Olino has a lot of things going on. He’s prepared a slow drip coffee, and he has peaches simmering in an immersion circulator. But the most intriguing component of the night is Pu-erh tea that’s been steeped in sous-vide coconut water. It’s part to a drink that he calls the Royal Ceylon, which matches the tea with a base of whisky and amaretto, and ramps things up with lime juice, cinnamon, and angostura bitters. It’s a tall drink with a lot of ingredients, and one would think that the tea wouldn’t be able to get through all that. But the Pu-erh shines, its earthiness buoyed with coconut flavor, turning it into the core of the drink. It’s a really simple idea that has value beyond the world of alcohol consumption, and we’re actually kind of surprised we haven’t really seen it before.
3. Chia Seeds are Really Just Healthier Boba
Practically every one of the participants in the Poblacion leg of the fest featured some spin on the Piña Colada. The one cooked up by Joe Villanueva over at the rum bar Buccaneers is kind of reminiscent of a coconut milk tea. The Super Colada No. 2 is made up of spiced rum, coconut liqueur, pineapple juice, ricotta cheese, and chia seeds. Those two last ingredients combine to give the drink its creamy heft, and the floating chia seeds basically functioned as an analog for tapioca pearls. So, while we were pickling our livers, we were also promoting good gut health. This is always a bonus.
4. Drink Fish Sauce. Just Do It.
Honestly, this isn’t something we learned while stumbling around the streets of Poblacion. We are Filipinos after all, and our appreciation for patis certainly goes as far as wanting to just shoot it sometimes. But fish sauce generally isn’t thought of as a possible ingredient for cocktails. But Kerwin Unido over at Run Rabbit Run just went for it. Milagro Tequila on its own has a minerality that reads as salty on the palate. His drink, Jalisco Yam, ramps that up with an extra touch of mezcal, before mixing it with cucumber juice, fresh lime, agave syrup, and the fish sauce. It’s a completely funky drink that delivers a complex mix of sour and savory notes that just somehow ends up being really refreshing. Also in the drink is a twist of boozy pickled cucumber that we’d like to buy a jar of.